What is your outlook?
Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 on NPR, is a journalist and the author of the novels Hey Day, Turn of the Century, The Real Thing, and his latest non-fiction book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. He has written and produced prime-time network television programs and pilots for NBC and ABC, and co-authored Loose Lips, an off-Broadway theatrical revue that had long runs in New York and Los Angeles. He is a regular columnist for New York Magazine, and contributes frequently to Vanity Fair. He is also a founder of Very Short List.
Andersen began his career in journalism at NBC's Today program and at Time, where he was an award-winning writer on politics and criminal justice and for eight years the magazine's architecture and design critic. Returning to Time in 1993 as editor-at-large, he wrote a weekly column on culture. And from 1996 through 1999 he was a staff writer and columnist for The New Yorker. He was a co-founder of Inside.com, editorial director of Colors magazine, and editor-in-chief of both New York and Spy magazines, the latter of which he also co-founded.
From 2004 through 2008 he wrote a column called "The Imperial City" for New York (one of which is included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2008). In 2008 Forbes. com named him one of The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media. Anderson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, and is a member of the boards of trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Pratt Institute, and is currently Visionary in Residence at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He lives with his family in New York City.
Kurt Andersen: It depends on the day how optimistic or pessimistic I am. I never find myself being erratically pessimistic or erratically optimistic. I find myself going up to 55%, 56% one way or the other. So my needle stays pretty close to the glass is both half full and half empty all the time. That can be affected by how many people were blown up in Baghdad today or any number of things.
But I think, and certainly in the near term, there’s not much cause for optimism. Having just written a book set 150 years ago which inclined me toward the long view, when I take the long view I can at least kind of grapple towards some more hopeful version of the next 100 years.
I think this age will be remembered as a time of, historically, at least as far as the United States is concerned, as a time of tremendous confusion and squandered opportunity in the now 15 years after the end of the Cold War. Roaring 20s time of a kind of acceptance. A kind of bland acceptance of pretty grotesque examples of economic inequality. So is that cheery enough for you?
Recorded On: July 5, 2007
There's not much cause for optimism, Andersen says.
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